Travis County names new top Medical Examiner

AUSTIN (KXAN) – After after nearly four months without a chief medical examiner, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe announced the hiring of a replacement Tuesday.

Dr. J Keith Pinckard will start his new role on March 1st. He will report to the Travis County Commissioners Court.

He leaves a high profile, state-wide position in New Mexico less than 18 months after being hired there.

A spokesperson with the University of New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator tells KXAN Dr. J. Keith Pinckard joined the Office in July 2013 as Deputy Chief. But this past September that agency’s board chose to not select Dr. Pinckard to take over for long-time Chief Medical Investigator, Dr. Ross Zumwalt. A final choice for that role has yet to be announced.

“A replacement has been chosen, but it (the UNM contract) is still in negotiations,” confirmed Amy Boule, spokesperson for the University of New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

That decision left the door open for Travis County leaders to court Pinckard after the resignation in August of current ME Dr. David Dolinak. Pinckard is no stranger to Texas, having served for a decade in Dallas as a medical examiner for the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences. That office investigates death cases in Dallas County.

Boule also tells KXAN Dr. Pinckard is a Professor of pathology and would elevate the entire Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office should there be a decision to align with the new University of Texas Medical School now under construction in Austin.

“He’s a gem and is all about quality service,” said Boule indicating the 46 year-old Pinckard has a personal mantra of consistency and competence. The Chief ME’s job in Travis County pays $270,000 a year.

According to an online bio of Dr. J. Keith Pinckard,  Pinckard received his MD from the Washington University School of Medicine in 1998, according to a release from Travis County.

Dr. Pinckard is the second high profile public official to leave New Mexico for Central Texas in the past year. Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks left Albuquerque Police in March where he was serving as Interim Chief during a time when that Department was under federal review for a number of deadly police-involved shootings. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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